Today we went to the Maiko dress up experience. I was prepped like a Maiko and Jose was prepped in traditional mens kimono. The Maiko outfit has layers upon layers of clothes all strapped, clipped and tied together. It’s so elaborate and beautiful their kimono but it is also quite heavy and when you combine it with the wigs and the hair ornaments and restricted movement, you can see how much effort the Maiko and Geiko put into walking as gracefully as they do. (The geisha use their own hair).

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Still it was a fun experience. I noticed they missed some aspects which I saw later on it the geisha performances but the time it took to prepare was well over an hour. To do every preparation would take even longer.

Afterwards we went to Gion to go watch the Miyako Odori. Before we sat down in our seats we had tea ceremony with the maiko and geiko. They performed it beautifully. However the amount of tourists standing up and taking photos it was like the paparazzi. They did very well to stay calm and not get too startled by all the flashes. I managed to take one beautiful shot before several tourist heads started bobbing endlessly in front of me.

A close up of maiko called Katsusen - 佳つ扇 prepped for her tea ceremony.
A close up of a maiko called Katsusen – 佳つ扇 prepped for her tea ceremony.
real maiko at a tea ceremony
This is what a real Maiko looks like, poised, elegant and ever so graceful.

We finally went inside and the lavishness of it all reminded me somewhat of Her Majesty’s Theatre which performs Phantom of the Opera though only in lavishness. The style of it of the Gion theatre is all Japanese though.

gion-kobu-kaburenjo-theatre
The inside of the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre

As the lights dimmed somewhat and many attendants prowled the aisles with “no photo” and “no mobile” signs. I waited in anticipation when suddenly blinding light shone at the sides of the the theatre and curtains sprung up and there are the geisha sitting with their instruments. On the other side of the theatre there are I believe the school instructors who sing and play also. Then more geisha file out through a curtain and the music is absolutely beautiful. Watching them and the occasional yips and yo’s from the side they glide and stamp their way to the main stage. It was a wonderful performance!

Atmospheric-Gion
Walking down Gion there are some areas which look like they haven’t changed in a hundred years.

Walking down Gion in the evening we saw the area come alight and life and I was reminded that this area was for the wealthier with meals starting at 10,000 yen (£60) in many places. Jose kept looking for Ramen even though I explained that we wouldn’t find ramen here.

small-ukiyoe-museum
We stumbled across this small museum, which turned out to be a woodblock printers residence.

We walked further out and stumbled onto this great sign. It was so great, I figured I’d go in and with my limited Japanese had a small conversation with the owner. He was kind enough to give us some of his artwork (nothing too big!) Today was a truly good day and I hope to see more like it.

master ukiyoe printer
Here is the master printer and he explains that the prints are the work of 3 people. Artist, carver and printer